By David Skolnick
Lyndsey Hughes, a city employee sexually harassed on the job, will receive $72,000 and her attorneys will get $48,000 as part of a settlement agreement that also includes her not keeping her job.
City council voted 7-0 Wednesday to pay the city’s $50,000 deductible to its insurance company to resolve the complaint. The board of control will authorize the payment today, said Mayor John A. McNally, that body’s chairman.
Vindy.com, The Vindicator’s website, first reported details about the settlement early Wednesday.
Hughes made $41,125 in annual salary as the downtown director of events, special projects and marketing, a job she had since 2008.
Her final day as downtown director, according to the agreement, was May 21.
She’s been off work since March 28, invoking the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allowed Hughes to use sick and vacation time she accrued and still get paid.
As part of the settlement, Hughes is receiving two $36,000 payments. One is for wages with tax withholdings and the other, without withholdings, is for “exacerbation of physical or psychological condition,” according to the settlement agreement.
Andrew L. Margolius and Barbara A. Belovich, Hughes’ Cleveland-based attorneys, are being paid $48,000 by the city.
“Both sides are satisfied” with the agreement, Law Director Martin Hume said.
A previous tentative agreement called for Hughes to receive a $90,000 settlement and report to McNally, but a majority of council members didn’t want her to return to her job, according to numerous sources with detailed information about this issue.
A Dec. 6, 2013, report conducted on behalf of the city concluded that DeMaine Kitchen, a former chief of staff/secretary to former mayor Charles Sammarone and also a former city councilman, ósexually harassed Hughes.
That report included an admission from Kitchen, a failed 2013 mayoral candidate, that he made inappropriate and flirtatious remarks to Hughes both verbally and through text messages.
Hughes told an investigator hired by the city that the harassment by Kitchen, who is married, started in late 2009 when he was the 2nd Ward councilman, and was off and on until July 2013 when she had an attorney contact the law director about the behavior.
The investigation was a major issue in the race that saw McNally, a Democrat, defeat Kitchen, who ran as an independent.
Meanwhile, finding a replacement for Hughes is up in the air.
During a 30-minute executive session Wednesday, council members could be heard yelling. The same thing happened at an April 17 executive session to discuss Hughes’ complaint.
After Wednesday’s closed-door meeting, Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, said, “We’re not going to do anything. There was no decision on an interim or permanent [replacement]. I want an interim.”
Tarpley backed a proposal from Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, to hire Terrill Vidale, a local event promoter, to replace Hughes on a temporary basis. But a majority of council didn’t support that move.
A similar effort also failed two weeks ago.
“No decisions were reached,” said Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th. “It was a stalemate.”
Council also discussed who would decide on Hughes’ replacement — council or the mayor — without a decision.
McNally questions whether the city needs a full-time downtown director’s job, and said the position would work better under his authority than the control of seven council members.
However, McNally said he is “not going to the wall” against council on having control over the position.
“Everybody on council knows my opinion,” he said.